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Kerry Londoners uncertain following new UK restrictions

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UNCERTAINTY: Noel O'Sullivan, pictured with Pearse O'Reilly of Irish TV at the London GAA headquarters in Ruislip, says he has no idea when he will make it home for a visit to Killarney.

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By Sean Moriarty

 

Killarney people living in London say that they do not know when they will be able to get home to see family again - due to the new UK COVID restrictions.

The British Government announced a range of new and tighter restrictions this week in an effort to curb growing COVID-19 cases in the country.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that if Tuesday’s new restrictions were not successful the country could he heading for a second full lockdown.

Restrictions imposed on businesses and people to stop the spread of COVID-19 could be in place for six months without major progress in areas such as vaccine and treatment development, he said.

The news was a bitter blow to many Kerry people living in the UK capital.

Noel O’Sullivan, who is originally from Ballaugh just outside town, has been living and working in London for the last 48 years but, thanks to Ryanair and Kerry Airport, he was able to get home a few times a year.

His last visit was Christmas - and this has been the longest period he has not been back home in nearly 50 years.

“It is hard to imagine that we were reading about this virus in China in January and how it has completely changed the way we live,” he told the Killarney Advertiser.

A life-long GAA fan, he has been involved with St Kiernan’s Club in Hendon, north London for years.

The London County Championship only got underway two weeks ago and already new restrictions could prevent the planned ban on spectators being lifted early next month.

“It is very hard on the elderly who may not be savvy with mobile phones and the Internet,” he added. “Going out to the games was their only way of meeting people and getting the news from home.”

Mr O’Sullivan is well-known in Irish community organisations in London. He is a former London GAA County Board chairman, a long-serving committee member of the London Rose of Tralee Centre, the Kerry Association London, and The Killarney Reunion.

His work for all of these organisations, as well as family occasions, meant he was a frequent visitor over the years.

“I had planned to come for a month in August and that fell through,” he said. “As a family we had booked a week in October but that is cancelled now. When is it all going to end.”

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Musician Liam O’Connor back and busier than ever

By Sean Moriarty Local musician Liam O’Connor has gone from zero to hero following the lifting on the ban on live music as a result of pandemic restrictions. On Saturday he played his first gig in over 18 months, next Friday he will release a new single, and before that he will play a special gig […]

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By Sean Moriarty

Local musician Liam O’Connor has gone from zero to hero following the lifting on the ban on live music as a result of pandemic restrictions.

On Saturday he played his first gig in over 18 months, next Friday he will release a new single, and before that he will play a special gig in London.

Liam and his family played at the Kerry County Council organised ‘ANSEO’ concert in North Kerry that was run to coincide with the Listowel Harvest Festival last weekend.

It was his first live show since he played at St Brendan’s College, Killarney when he shared the stage with special guest, former Irish rugby coach, Joe Schmidt. That event took place on March 11, 2020, the night before the country entered its first COVID-19 lockdown.

The ‘ANSEO’ series of concerts signalled the return of live music in Kerry and the O’Connor family shared the stage with other local musicians like Tim O’Shea and his Afro Trad Ireland group.

“People were delighted, they were mad for it, they were obviously missing it,” Liam told the Killarney Advertiser. “But they are not letting go just yet, they are still a bit hesitant.”

This Sunday Liam heads to London were he will help Dan Tim O’Sullivan steer sheep over Southwark Bridge (see page 36 for more on this story).

To cap an exceptionally busy period for the local accordion player, he has joined forces with Moya Brennan of Clannad fame. Brennan and O’Connor will release a new single – ‘Strong in Numbers’ on Friday next, October 1.

They previously performed together at a concert in the Friary in 2017.

“It was such a positive experience for all of us we just had to repeat it,” he added. “So not only have we done this recording of ‘Strong in Numbers’ but we are planning to do the Friary again later this year. After that, I wouldn’t rule anything out.”

Meanwhile, the ‘ANSEO’ series visits Killarney on Sunday night.

The Fair Hill car park will host two shows featuring: The Gleneagle Concert Band; Pauline Scanlon with Mick Galvin; The Small Hours; The Rising; Cathal Flaherty and Truly Diverse.

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Coach operators plead for Government aid in budget

By Sean Moriarty   A Killarney tour operator has called for the Government to provide further financial aid for the industry in light of an uncertain 2022 season. He described to an Oireachtas Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sports and Media on Wednesday how a coach with just two American tourists and two staff […]

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By Sean Moriarty
 

A Killarney tour operator has called for the Government to provide further financial aid for the industry in light of an uncertain 2022 season.

He described to an Oireachtas Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sports and Media on Wednesday how a coach with just two American tourists and two staff is currently touring Ireland.

Representatives from the Coach Tourism and Transport Council of Ireland (CTTC) including Mike Buckley of Kerry Coaches, were invited to outline the detrimental impact COVID-19 has had on the coach tour industry.

Mr Buckley said he and his industry colleagues were desperate to highlight that Ireland was open for business and that the empty coach was an attempt by tour operators to prove how far they are willing to go to get this message out there.

“There is a reticence by people who travel in large numbers, people are not buying,” he told the meeting.

“There is anecdotal evidence that one coach operator is touring Ireland with two passengers, a driver and a tour guide.”

Mr Buckley said he was grateful for the previous support the industry had received but that funding stems back to the summer of 2020 and they were not included in the July 2021 round of funding.

That money was put towards existing loans on buses and coaches and has now dried up.

“It was like putting a bandage over a major bleed or haemorrhage,” he added.

The CTTC said that the coach industry contributed €215 million to the economy in 2019, the last year full figures are available for.

“Shops, cafes, hotels, attractions are hugely dependent on coach tours,” he added.

Kerry Coaches, in peak times, employ up to 114 drivers and tour guides.

“We are down to a skeleton staff,” he added.

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